by Dennis Crouch
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has proposed a rule to create a separate design patent practitioner bar. The USPTO is publishing this proposal in the Federal Register on May 16, 2023 (link below to the prepub).
As it stands today, there is a single patent bar that applies to those practicing in patent matters before the USPTO, covering utility, plant, and design patents. And, even though design patents cover ornamentally, the current rules require that the design patent practitioner be an engineer or scientist.
The proposed rule aims to establish an additional separate bar for those who only specialize in design patents, ensuring that they have the necessary qualifications, while opening the door to non-engineers. The proposal appears to not affect those already registered to practice. Existing patent practitioners will continue to practice as before, and new applicants who meet the current criteria, including passing the existing registration exam, will also be permitted to practice in all patent matters, including design patent matters.
In Fall 2022, the USPTO asked for comments on proposals in this direction and received mostly positive comments. Stakeholders acknowledged that the move would encourage broader participation in the patent system.
The proposal would still have a ‘technical’ requirement, typically a degree in one of the following: industrial design, product design, architecture, applied arts, graphic design, fine/studio arts, or art teacher education. The degree requirements here align with the current hiring practices of the USPTO for design patent examiners. In addition to the degree requirements, applicants would have to meet the other requirements to register for the bar, including taking and passing the current registration examination and passing a moral character evaluation.
The USPTO will accept comments on the proposed rulemaking through August 14, 2023 via the regulations.gov portal.